Archive for Rated R

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PodCastle 645: God Damn, How Real Is This?

Show Notes

Thanks to Nightwood Editions for allowing us to reprint the text of this story and to ECW Press for allowing us to run an excerpt from the collection’s audiobook; this audiobook was produced as a part of ECW Press’s Bespeak Audio Imprint. You can purchase the print version of this book here and the audiobook here.


God Damn, How Real Is This?

By Doretta Lau

My future self sends me a text message at least once a day.

The latest: Hey, tricho-slut, get your man hands out of our hair. I have a Lake Michigan–shaped bald spot forming on the back of my head. stop plucking. it’s starting to look like a penis.

Last I checked there were no Great Lakes of any sort blooming on my scalp, no Superiors or Hurons or Eries flooding my hair. Of late, these missives from the future have become increasingly more abusive. I wonder, when will I flip my bitch switch and hop on this negative self-talk train? In a week? In a year? I’d like to believe this use of misogynistic language is out of character and that maybe I’m being trolled by a bored identity thief. I file the thought as something for my present self to discuss with my now therapist.

Another message flashes on my phone: That mole on your left arm that you’ve been ignoring? Get thee to a doctor. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 644: Sea-Crowned

Show Notes

Rated R.


Sea-Crowned

By H. Pueyo

Water — there’s water everywhere, water covering my feet, my knees, my hips. Water, foam, salt, sand in my mouth, waves crashing against this iron cage, pulling both it and me towards the depths. Once, I looked at the sea for comfort, to shelter my loneliness from your anger, but you took that away from me, like you took everything else.

We have the same blood, you and I, and yet . . . And yet I am the only one here, aren’t I?


(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 643: Strange Things Done

Show Notes

Rated R.


Strange Things Done

By Tori Curtis

Audra was both proud and shy of her body, these days; she liked to be seen, but could barely stand to be looked at. She and Nicole lay in the bed that had once been Nic’s grandparents’, both of them naked, both of them staring down at her tits.

“Those are new,” Nic said, nodding at the pinfeathers scattered across her chest (inconsistently, like powdered sugar or freckles). They had come up all over her body, but especially between her neck and her navel, thick over her shoulders and chest.

Nic had no impulse control and she wasn’t used to denying her base desires; she sat on her hands to keep them to herself. The muscles flexed in her forearms and in her throat when she swallowed. “Does it hurt to touch them?” she asked.

Audra looked down, shifted her weight, spread her hair out on the pillow like a halo. The feathers were brighter than she’d expected. When she’d had hair across her chest, so long ago it wasn’t even a sense memory anymore, it had been dark and dull. The new growth was almost tropical: tiny dots of blue, violet, bright red. She looked up, making eye contact briefly, and said, “I don’t know. Why don’t you see?” Nic reached out and Audra added, suddenly panicked, “Gently!”, and they both laughed.

Nic was always gentle with her, and gentler when she realized that she was being given a gift of extraordinary trust. Her fingertips barely brushed the new feather shafts. Her nails scraped over Audra’s nipple, and Audra goosebumped all over, the feathers stood erect.

“I don’t think that’s what birds do,” Nic said.

Audra crossed her arms over her chest, careful with all the tender parts of her. “I’m not a bird,” she said. “I wouldn’t know.”

“Well,” Nic said. They were both unsure. “Didn’t used to be.”

Audra considered that and stretched, pointed her toes toward the long end of the bed. She scratched a spot on her arm where she thought a new feather was beginning to form. “It doesn’t hurt,” she said, “but I don’t think I like you touching them yet. Not while they’re still so new.”

“That’s all right,” Nic said, and spread herself on the bed next to her, languid and easy and casual to balance Audra’s nerves. “There’s plenty of other places I can touch for now.”

(Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 630: A Cruelty That Cut Both Ways

Show Notes

Rated R.


A Cruelty That Cut Both Ways

By Aimee Ogden

The thunderbird had left two carcasses by the barn overnight.

Ezra refused to call in the hands to help. It was Sunday, after all, and their God-given day off, whatever the devil’s own bird might have done. It was only divine providence that the rest of the cattle hadn’t escaped when the bird ransacked the Greens’ barn — the blank-eyed creatures stood and stared from where they’d crowded at the back when Ezra cleared the wreckage of the door and let in the morning’s light. He and Sarah cleaned the two dead cattle while Liza read the Bible to herself in the kitchen and prepared the Sunday meal. Sarah had assigned her daughter the story of Ruth and Boaz for today, and she could hear her daughter’s voice drifting out through the open windows in between the rap of the knife on the wooden counter. She struggled over certain words — Moabite and guardian and foreigner — but her voice was clear and true as she sounded out the story of faith and patience rewarded. Sarah hoped she took the tale to heart. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 625: Salt and Iron

Show Notes

Rated R.


Salt and Iron

By Gem Isherwood

There’s a gash across her cheekbone, glass in her arm and her lower lip is twice the size it should be, but Dagna Müller is hardly a stranger to pain.

She slumps on the steps outside the tavern, feeling her nose to check if it’s broken again. Without sensation in her fingertips it’s hard to tell. She can’t bring herself to care much either way.

Her muscles ache from the weight as well as the fight: a dull hurt that courses along her shoulders and down her arms, turning to a chafing burn where the skin of her wrists meets the solid metal of her hands.

That pain never fades. At least the injuries provide some variety.

The tavern stands on the seafront, where barques and schooners are berthed like horses stabled for the night. The tide is low and the air reeks worse than an undine’s armpit; between that and the cheap gin in her belly it takes all of Dagna’s willpower not to retch.

Six months ago, she wouldn’t have lost a fight. If she hadn’t drunk herself halfway into oblivion she could have knocked all three of them out inside of a minute. Or at least noticed the bastards were cheating before they’d taken every last coin in her purse.

“Here,” a voice says from above her. “You’re a damn poor advertisement for my business.”

She looks up to see the landlord – an old mariner, face wrinkled from the sun and sea air – offering her an almost-clean rag. She takes it and dabs at her bloody face.

“I’ll pay for the damage,” she says, busted lip muffling the words.

“Oh yeah? With what?” He leans against the doorframe and folds his arms. “Them’s good hands for throwing a punch. Strong arms for throwing weight behind it too.”

“Four years on the merchant ships’ll do that.”

The glass splinters in her left bicep are leaking spots of blood like freckles. She’ll have to dig them out with a penknife later. It’s times like these she misses fingernails. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 621: A Salt and Sterling Tongue

Show Notes

Rated R.


A Salt and Sterling Tongue

By Emma Osborne

I found my dying boy curled up in a pile of straw wet with his blood. Seamus rolled over as I entered the barn, and I saw then that he’d chewed his fingers down to the first knuckle.

I gasped.

“I can taste my King in my wet,” he said, rocking forward, naming his lost Merling lord. Seamus could barely keep himself up on what was left of his hands and his knees. I crouched and moved closer and he fell forward onto forearms thin as sticks.

Seamus’ teeth shone through the gore that coated him from nose to navel, and he’d bitten off a few of the scales that dotted the skin of his upper arms. One was stuck to his chin with blood.

“He’s stopped singing, but I can hear him in the waves and in my blood, my lord, my king.”

My youngest boy was the one of the unlucky few who’d heard the music of the Merling King while out collecting cockles, who came home the next morning shivering and soaked and vomiting up seawater, the salt crystalising in his scant beard, newborn silver scales peeping out of his skin. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 620: When Hope Is Lost, Touch Remains

Show Notes

Rated R for steamy friction, physical and ethical.


When Hope Is Lost, Touch Remains

By Nin Harris

Chowrasta Market was where Maria had learned to love books — upstairs in the claustrophobic crush of second-hand book stalls, where the musty smell of old paperbacks was drowned in a panoply of aromas from the market downstairs: fish, the blood of poultry, and the musk-laden spore of murdered mammals. Her bookishness was all she was able to offer the men who occasionally fell in love with her. They drowned in her literary wit and her fragile insecurities until the time when, as with all relationships, one must drift away and make an end.

Sometimes the endings were congenial.

More often than not the congeniality masked a secret pain, a gnawing loss at the realisation that another hope had been proven false. Because what are endings but a betrayal of some hope? But then again, what are endings if they are not a culmination of choices made? (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 615: Field Reports from the Department of Monster Resettlement

Show Notes

Rated R, for a rowdy band of righteous monsters.


Field Reports from the Department of Monster Resettlement

by L. Chan

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: two ghosts, a pontianak and a manananggal are sitting around the third floor of a community centre after dark. The trick isn’t getting them to come to the support group, the trick is getting them to agree to be resettled.


I arrange swiss rolls, cream puffs and savory pastries in company lines that would have impressed a drill sergeant, but would the Assistant Director down at the department or my guests care? I don’t know. What do monsters eat anyway? Puppies. The blood of virile young men. Hapless neophyte civil servants.

The carpet used to be a garish orange and brown, pattern reminiscent of bolognese regurgitated by a dog. Greying fabric wallpaper went threadbare over dented dry wall. The hole by the door was the right size and shape for a fist. Goodness knows what they used this room for. At least the department got it cheap.

First job, first resettlement, first time I’m on my own, no more training, no safety net, no screwups. I’ve got the profiles of all the monsters printed out. Twelve point font, double-spaced, one inch margins, colour-coded plastic tabs for each profile by ethnicity. That’s the whole point of the policy. Have to mix them up, nobody wants all the jiang shi and kuei to be in one place, all the toyols and hantus to be in another. Not to mention those that we’ve imported into this melting pot. I accept the sugar coated logic pill, down the hatch with a cool draught of my own university education, not pausing to think about what’s at the heart of the medicine. It’s all good.

For a moment, there’s a stiff stage fright breeze, a whiff of the air beyond the curtains, that the monsters won’t turn up, that I’m going to slink back to the office tomorrow in some reverse walk of shame.

Then there’s a scratching at the dust speckled window. The manananggal is here. They’re coming, all good little monsters, every one. That’s Singapore for you. (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 611: Yo, Rapunzel!

Show Notes

Rated R, for ridiculous, with sprinklings of boardgames, box wine, and profanity.


Yo, Rapunzel!

By Kyle Kirrin

And lo, the Princess said: “Motherfucker, I am content.”

“But Princess!” said the Knight, from the base of the Princess’ tower. His armor-clad ass was parked atop a huge black stallion, which the Princess found not only pompous, but entirely predictable. “You misunderstand; I’m here to save you from — ”

“Hold up,” said the Princess. “Exactly what part of girl-lives-in-her-own-goddamned-tower implies a need for rescue?”

“Well, I — ”

“Do you have any idea how many women would kill for a tower off in the wilderness? I am fucking blessed.”

“Princess,” said the Knight, “that’s all well and good, but this isn’t your place. You belong — ”

“Perpetually pregnant in a castle that smells like chlamydia? Pass.”

“M’lady, please. I only want what’s best for you.” (Continue Reading…)

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PodCastle 605: Blood, Bone, Seed, Spark

Show Notes

Rated R for secrets, science, and sexuality.


Blood, Bone, Seed, Spark

By Aimee Ogden

Upstairs, in the little rowhouse on the thirty-sixth meridian of the city of Leth Marno, the scuffling grows louder. Heels ring out against the floorboards, and shouts are muffled; by the rugs, perhaps, or a hand that grasps to cover a mouth.

Anell Nath sits downstairs by the flower-arrangement pedestal. Her hands shake as she trims leaves from a bundle of pale peonies. She is more certain with the tools of her trade than with the instruments of the gentleperson’s art, but dissection scissors would make slow work of the thick waxy stems. As she works she counts the blows from the level above; categorizes and classifies each cry that makes its way down to her. Cool observation distances her from what is happening up there. That is her job, and always has been: to study, to take notes. To seek understanding, or at least knowledge.

Hasn’t she had enough understanding for a lifetime by now? How deep must understanding be, before she drowns in it? The blades of the shears snap methodically, and leaves fall to the ground between her bare feet.

Years of hard, grinding work in the library and the laboratory have honed the great desire of Anell’s heart into a scalpel, a sharp point ever driving toward that goal. The blade is so keen, though, that by its very nature it has flensed away everything else.

The shears are heavy in her hand. A scalpel would have been defter. She sits, and cuts, and waits. (Continue Reading…)